One of the things that sets Watchmen apart from other superhero comics, especially comics prior to 1986, is its treatment of sex. Watchmen #7is all about sex. Not some cheap an tawdry porno orgy comic book, but a mature approach to two consenting adults exploring sex. Two adults who also dress up in costumes and fight crime.
Sex in super hero comic books is usually an adolescent portrayal of sex. Heck, almost everything in super hero comic books is adolescent. We rarely see the search for intimacy. The awkwardness. The attempts not just to satisfy lust but to find fulfilment. To make a connection with someone. To be one with someone. That’s the kind of sex with find in Watchmen #7.
Laurie and Dan are two lonely people. As they reminisce about their costumed crime fighting days, they draw closer and closer. They start getting hot and steamy, but it’s awkward and doesn’t work out. Something is missing.
Putting on their old costumes, they head out on patrol and rescue the residents of an apartment building turned fieryinferno. Afterwards, they embrace and make passionate love. What was missing was the costumes. It was always about the costumes.
Laurie and Dan are missing something in their lives. They try and fill the void with sex, but it doesn’t work. A void that can only be filled by being who they truly are. The fact that sex doesn’t work for Dan and Laurie without the costumes could be described as fetishism. That it’s a kink that they both share. But I think it’s more than that. Going back to when they stopped the muggers in #3. These two people have stopped being who they are. And it’s not until they accept themselves do things work out for them.
We can try and find our fulfilment in all kinds of things. We can look for it in sexual relationships. In our work. In our families. In our achievements. But at the end of the day, they’re all lacking. As human beings, we were created with a purpose. Our purpose is to bring glory to the creator. To live in a relationship with him. To worship him. To ignore this purpose is to ignore who we are. There are so many people walking around this world with this big hole in their life. They try and plug it, but can’t find anything to fill that gap. It’s only when we embrace God, embrace the death and resurrection of his son Jesus, embrace our adoption as sons and daughters of the most high, that we can live life to the fullest.
What was missing was the costumes? I interpreted it to be the action. (Not to say you’re wrong or anything, I just have a different read on it.) After all, they weren’t in costume when they took out those muggers, and we can see how excited that got them. In the world they inhabit, fighting off a mugging is legal, but assumng an alternate identity and saving people from a fire is not. Being law-abiding citizens, they have complied with these laws, but you’re absolutely right: they weren’t being true to themselves. The costumes, for those two, are just tools of the trade. With some of the other vigilantes, there were greater or lesser degrees of sexual exhibitionism involved, but I think for these two– Nite Owl especially– a costume was a logical part of the work they did. (OK, Silk Specter probably enjoyed looking hot. But I think that was ancilliary for her.)
Once they finally allowed themselves to be who they were, regardless of the rules, they found release from years of inhibition. This was good not just for themselves, but for everybody else; they saved all the people on that rooftop.
Nite Owl and Silk Spectre’s usual devotion to doing things right and proper, and staying within society’s lines, will come up again during the climax to the series…